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Academic Writing
Exercise: Formal or Informal

Formal or Informal1

These four texts differ in formality. One of the reasons for this difference is the different audiences they are targeting.

Read the texts below carefully and then rank them from most formal (1), to most informal (4). When you have finished ranking the texts, submit your answer.

Rank the Texts
A) Why write essays? In the modern world our thinking is largely transmitted by speech and through radio and television. At the university, however, you are required to do much of your thinking through writing. In the Humanities and Social Sciences you are inevitably required to produce a considerable number of essays. 2

B) It might be said that in-vitro fertilisation, at any age, is a matter of free choice, especially if the patient pays. If a woman wants the procedure, age should be irrelevant. But age can never be totally irrelevant. The line is unclear. But in the case of older mothers, questions of the "best interest of the child" press more insistently. And even when the patient pays something towards the cost of these procedures, there is some cost to the public. The issue of resource allocation remains.3

C) In many radiotherapy centres where planning for external beam treatments is performed by radiation therapists, the treatment sheet and its calculations are independently checked by staff from a different educational background, typically a radiotherapy physicist. The benefits of this practice were evaluated in a radiotherapy department with two linear accelerators: one combined superficial-orthovoltage unit and one telecaesium unit.4

D) It's a real shame that something as simple as a diet was not taken account of by nurses, thus causing unnecessary pain to the patient. It probably caused even more pain to the patient's family and friends having to see their loved one die like that. How would we feel if we saw our own relative go through that experience?


1 This exercise has been adapted in part from material developed for A text based guide to academic writing, CD-ROM, Department of Modern Languages, University of Wollongong, 2000.
2 Clanchy, J. and Ballard, B. (1981) Essay Writing for Students, Melbourne: Longman Cheshire
3 Editorial from The Sydney Morning Herald
4 Abstract from Physics Journal



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